© Hugh M. Hefner Foundation 2019
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THE LENNY BRUCE COLLECTION

AT BRANDEIS UNIVERSITY

The Hugh M. Hefner Foundation recently provided a grant to Brandeis University which allowed the school to acquire, archive, and make available to students and the public, the Lenny Bruce Archives.

Lenny Bruce was a comedian, satirist, social commentator, and rule breaker, whose brilliant, disturbing, and divisive comedy routines led to several arrests on obscenity charges. His bold use of language, his fearlessness in naming social, legal, and political hypocrisies, and his fight for his First Amendment rights paved the way for important changes in this country, not only to its comedic landscape, but also to the rights of its citizens to speak freely and without fear. Brandeis University’s Archives & Special Collections Department acquired the Lenny Bruce collection from his daughter, Kitty Bruce, in 2014.

The collection consists of ten linear feet of photographs, writings and performance transcripts, correspondence, news clippings and articles, audio recordings, and trial materials, all related to Lenny Bruce's performances and life, as well as some materials relating to his family members. Many of the photographs document Bruce’s personal life and show him among

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friends and family. Bruce’s professional career is well-documented through his manuscripts, typescripts, magazine and newspaper articles and (sometimes annotated) performance transcripts and set lists. The audio materials include excerpts or full recordings of many of Bruce’s performances, as well several personal recordings made at home. The large news clippings and articles series provides insight into the public response to Bruce’s humor and performance style, his legal battles, and the state of free speech in mid-20th-century America. This series includes materials which had been previously gathered by Bruce’s close friend, Ralph J. Gleason, a journalist for the San Francisco Chronicle who later became the founding editor for Rolling Stone Magazine. The Lenny Bruce collection materials range in date from the early 1920s to the 2000s.

Many of the photographs document Bruce’s personal life and show him among friends and family. Bruce’s professional career is well-documented through his manuscripts, typescripts, magazine and newspaper articles and (sometimes annotated) performance transcripts and set lists. The audio materials include excerpts or full recordings of many of Bruce’s performances, as well several personal recordings made at home. The large news clippings and articles series provides insight into the public response to Bruce’s humor and performance style, his legal battles, and the state of free speech in mid-20th-century America. This series includes materials which had been previously gathered by Bruce’s close friend, Ralph J. Gleason, a journalist for the San Francisco Chronicle who later became the founding editor for Rolling Stone Magazine. The Lenny Bruce collection materials range in date from the early 1920s to the 2000s.

Hef first saw Lenny perform in San Francisco in 1958. He was an immediate fan and, when he returned to Chicago, he used his influence to help Lenny book gigs at some of city's most prominent nightclubs. Lenny was invited to be a guest on Hef's television show, Playboy's Penthouse, he was profiled in Playboy magazine, and the publication later excerpted and published Lenny's book, How to Talk Dirty and Influence People. Both Hef and Lenny were persecuted and arrested for their determination to defend the First Amendment and, through their trials and tribulations, they became good friends.

 

It made perfect sense, then, that the Hugh M. Hefner Foundation would support the preservation of Lenny's materials after being approached by Brandeis with the opportunity. Christie Hefner recently participated in an episode of The Kitchen Sisters podcast series, The Keepers, along with Lenny's daughter, Kitty Bruce, and Brandeis archivist, Sarah Shoemaker, in which they discussed the acquisition and restoration of the Lenny Bruce Collection.

Adding to their Lenny Bruce Collection, Brandeis recently purchased a mysterious 12-minute film that may be a collaboration between Lenny and jazz musician "Count" Lewis DePasquale. Read the Boston Globe article about the film acquisition here.

HEF RECOUNTS HELPING LENNY AFTER HIS CHICAGO ARREST. HEF AND LENNY HAD SIMILAR CONFRONTATIONS WITH THE LAW AND BOTH FACED OBSCENITY CHARGES IN THE 1960S AMIDST A CULTURAL SHIFT THAT SAW OUR FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION CHALLENGED BY A CONTROVERSIAL JUSTICE SYSTEM.